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Sell-by Date

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Review: Pieter-Dirk Uys proves once again that he is the master of satire and characterisation in SELL-BY-DATE

On at Theatre on the Bay until 10 June

– Faeron Wheeler, Broadway World, 25 May 2023

Probably one of the best things about South Africa and South Africans is our sense of humour. When times get tough, we can always find a way to laugh — and that is the beauty of a Pieter-Dirk Uys show. Uys knows just how to tap into our fears and our challenges, and make us laugh at them. SELL-By-DATE does exactly that.

In world still reeling from the pandemic, surrounded by chaos and corruption in our politics, and of course load shedding, it can be tricky to find something to laugh about. In comes South African treasure Pieter-Dirk Uys with his gorgeous characters and razor-sharp wit, and we're all laughing. Suddenly, the world isn't so scary or damaged. It's a true gift that Uys has — to give us hope and laughter.

In SELL-By-DATE, Uys covers a few hard-hitting topics. Of course, load shedding is right up there. The general mismanagement, corruption and chaos that fill South African politics are also easy pickings for the great satirist. He even thanks the SA government for being such great scriptwriters for him! He had the National Party back in the day and now he has the ANC to help him out.

Uys also touches on some very personal topics. The entire notion of having a sell-by-date. At the age of 77, people ask him regularly if or when he is going to retire. I'm glad to say that he isn't planning to do that any time soon! That would be a very sad day for local theatre when he takes his final bow on stage.

He also explores the notion of woke culture and whether or not he will have to retire some of his characters that he plays. In today's world, can an older, white, gay man do his characterisations of ex-president Zuma, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Tata Madiba? Can he continue to portray Nowell Fine, Bambi Kellerman and everyone's favourite Evita Bezuidenhout? Honestly, my spine goes cold at the thought of never seeing Tannie Evita again. She's as real a person to me as the actor himself is.

Don't worry though! You will get to see all your favourites in SELL-BY-DATE. Uys takes you through a trip down memory lane, donning a jacket or a pair of glasses and transforming into the characters right in front of you. Then he pops on a pair of false eyelashes and a bit of lipstick, followed by a wig — and there is Nowell, Bambi and finally, Evita. I will never get over watching Uys transform on stage. His ability to make subtle alterations to his body language and his voice that completely change him into someone else before your eyes is magical.

SELL-BY-DATE is another piece of thought-provoking entertainment that will make you laugh out loud, created by probably one of the greatest satirists ever. Definitely worth seeing! It's on at Theatre on the Bay until 10 June. Tickets range between R150 and R250, and can be bought via webtickets.



Review: Sell-By- Date — Pieter-Dirk Uys and his truly unstoppable titanium Tannie Evita

– Robyn Cohen, The Cape Robyn, 25 May 2023

When and where: May 17 to June 10, 2023 at Theatre on the Bay, Cape Town and at FynArts Festival 2023 in Hermanus on June 11 at 18:30 — 19:45pm in the Dutch Reformed Church

Bookings for Theatre on The Bay: Webtickets.co.za or through Theatre On The Bay box-office on (021) 438-3300/1

Bookings for FynArts: http://hermanusfynarts.co.za/event/sell-by-date/ or see https://hermanusfynarts.co.za/

Duration: Approx 90-minutes. No interval.  

The legendary Pieter-Dirk Uys is on in Cape Town at Theatre on the Bay, with his show, Sell-By-Date, until June 10, 2023. The day after the season at TOB, he will zoom over to Hermanus to the FynArts Festival. He is the FynArts Legacy Artist 2023 and will receive his award at a ceremony on June 11, from luminary writer, Christopher Hope, who resides in France. PDU will also perform Sell-By-Date at FynArts [also June 11]. PDU is 77. It is remarkable that he is still on the boards, with his signature satire/revue shows.

I write that PDU will “zoom” over to FynArts but of course that word now conjures up the pandemic days, when live performance was largely presented on the screen and often, via the app “zoom”, which many of us had not known about, before the lockdown regulations shuttered theatre. PDU presented several shows during lockdown, on virtual platforms. In Sell-By-Date, his first major new solo-show, post-pandemic, he talks about those days and segues into realities now — dealing with our current challenges and anxieties (load shedding, breakdown of services, widespread corruption, the looming elections in 2024). He shares aspects of his current physical journey with the audience. I will not production spoil. It is intimate and up-close with this icon of South African theatre — stripped back. All is revealed as he stands on stage, in his socks and crocs.

In a recent interview, PDU said to me that he reckons that in this show, he is talking WITH the audience, not talking TO the audience. In Sell-By-Date, there is a sense of him feeling flummoxed by the state of the ruptured Rainbow Nation and the currency of whether we are beyond our sell-by-date (let us not talk about our currency). PDU shuffles through props and costumes, in and out of a crate, destined for a charity shop. He debates whether to relinquish the lot.

A favourite PDU tag line has been the need to laugh at our fears. In the current situation, we are perhaps, beyond fear — of what could happen. The edges of the absurd have flattened into a miasma of being wrapped in dread. PDU takes us there but his love for South Africa and his celebration of its people and its resilience is always there.

Then we get to his impressions and impersonations. PDU muses about the issues of being politically correct and the act of appropriating guises of others. Is it okay for a white man to impersonate Madiba? How about bringing on his favourite ladies — Evita Bezuidenhout, Nowell Fine and Evita’s sister Bambi Kellermann? Is it not woke for a man to impersonate women? I loved seeing Nowell, Bambi and Evita again. For 2023, Nowell and Evita are depicted as older ladies. Evita is 87— a decade older than PDU. She is fabulous — as always. I don’t know Nowell’s age but she is aging gracefully as she regales us, with her delicious kugel accent about her take on things, Bambi (former stripper), who is Evita’s sister, is ageless. She looks exactly the same — evoking the underbelly of Berlin in the 1960s. She hung out with the Beatles and other famous people, far away from her motherland. Meanwhile her famous sister, the power hungry, Evita reigned as the “most famous white woman in South Africa” (only surpassed by Helen Zille) and was busy “cooking for reconciliation”. Bambi has always been the recalcitrant diva who transcends political correctness, purring a mantra of sex.

Watching Sell-By-Date and I was reminded of the extraordinary contribution by Pieter-Dirk Uys to the arts and to community as a whole. Beyond his over four decades in theatre — satirist, writer, playwright, director, producer (and more) — he has made an impact as a cultural activist — voter education, sex education, HIV AIDS awareness. This work was self-funded. He put Evita in a grocery bag and drove solo around the country. Here he is in 2023, approaching his 8th decade, teasing out mirth prompts and communing with his audience. On the evening I attended, there was standing ovation. It was not a media night or a special event. Bravo to PDU — South Africa’s treasured satirist — treading the boards at 77 — and holding on to his crate of props and costumes —– for the shows that beckon beyond the sell-by-date stamp. Bravo to Pieter-Dirk Uys and his truly unstoppable titanium Tannie Evita and for bringing his wonderful energy and satire to lift us out of ourselves.



SELL-BY DATE: Uys lays it all on the table

– Steve Kretzmann, The Critter, 21 May 2023

Old age is the joke life plays on us. The price for all that rude health and beauty of youth.

As our exterior, sum of experiences, character adaptations, losses, and the interminable shift in other’s perceptions gather, our willing hearts and memory of youth’s opportunity as recent as the dawn makes terminal fun of us. But what’s the alternative?

And so Pieter-Dirk Uys, our satirist extrodinaire, a lancer of our national boils, chooses, after four decades of dressing up and dressing down leaders from PW Botha to Julius Malema, does perhaps the only thing left to do: take off his own clothes. After all, the politicians surrounding us have determinedly stripped themselves of dignity to the point they’re essentially naked now. Nakedly greedy, nakedly corrupt, nakedly incompetent. If they just tried to pretend a bit, if they acknowledged the existence of some moral code, the robe could be pulled off them. But no, there’s barely a thread left.

Which had Pieter seeming somewhat resigned; he, who is on first name terms with Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, to say nothing of Bambi Kellerman and Evita Bezuidenhout, making a dark, almost offhand warning: 2024 is our last chance.

Of course he helps us to laught at it — not our last chance, that is no laughing matter — our complicity, our idiocy. A laughter that offers hope. Yet the harder you laugh, the closer you are to weeping.

I have a confession to make. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pieter-Dirk Uys show. Not in a theater, at least, and so not a fully rehearsed and titled production. But I’ve seen him, and Evita Bezuidenhout, so many times it feels like I’ve seen many of his shows. Not the same thing. Thus I can’t judge whether SELL-BY DATE had less laughter than others. Whether Pieter wasn’t being more of a storyteller and less of a performer. But it was poignant and beautiful as he poked the finger backwards, going woke and cancelling his bergie character which was, admittedly uncomfortable in a way it wouldn’t have been 20, even 10, years ago.

Which is sad, as in Pieter’s hands it’s less a caricature and more a homage to a character; a particularly Cape Town character, an aristrocat of the street. And with him, places disappear.

But yes, things have changed. Covid changed us.

Pieter speaks about Covid, using the time to go through all his costumes. Of course he goes through some of them with us; they are old friends. And Pieter is old. He admits it. Makes no attempt to appear otherwise. And to see him lying on a table, doing his knee exercises, die hart raak ‘n bietjie seer.

SELL-BY DATE is a courageous, vulnerable, masterful performance by an actor who forms part of our cultural life and lexicon. There may have been a ‘best before’, but Pieter has no sell-by date.

Pieter-Dirk Uys’s Sell-by Date is playing at Theatre on the Bay until 10 June.



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